Scope of Collections/Categories of Collections

As institutions grow and evolve over the years, many find they are custodians of objects that have little relation to their current mission and vision. Compiling a history of the collections you currently manage can oftentimes help you understand why your collection has the scope it does. History is what was acquired and when, as well as why (if you know the reason). Scope focuses on the types of collections you have today and intend to collect in the future. Within the scope of collections, you may also designate categories to help organize the collections. In this module’s webinar, you will hear how museums and archives/special collections create their scope of collections and the common categories found in each type of organization.


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Discussion Questions
In the webinar, our presenters spoke about the importance of identifying the scope of your collection—that is the objects currently in your collections and what you would like to collect.

  • Identifying your collection’s strengths and weaknesses, especially in terms of how your collections meet the mission of your institution, helps identify scope.
  • Once you identify the quality traits of your current collection, how will that assessment assist you in creating an argument for the types of objects you might want as part of your collection in the future?
  • Or perhaps the types of objects you may want to turn away?
  • How do answers to these questions help you draft a comprehensive scope of collections statement for your policy? 

Utilizing the game spinner have each participant take a turn at the spinner.  Read the question or topic to the group and discuss among the group. Use examples from your policy or institution. 

Scope of Collections/Categories of Collections

Note:  When viewing the samples a new browser page will open.   

Online Resources
Chicago History Museum, Scope of Collections

California State Parks, Guidelines for Writing a Scope of Collections Statement

Ellis Island, NPS Scope of Collections

University of Texas- Eugene McDermott Library Scope of Collections

National Park Service (NPS), Museum Handbook, Part 1: Museum Collections, Chapter 2: Scope of Museum Collections

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